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Extraordinary items

And will that be all, sir?

What’s happened to The Money Programme? Just days after the May euro-summit, the venerable BBC2 captains-of-industry show broadcast a special mid-week programme on … the sex industry! Billion-pound business, bored housewives, profits made by newspapers carrying classified ads for ‘massage parlours’ – all the usual stuff. But there was the added benefit of watching the Money Programme researcher armed with a hidden camera (hidden where, we don’t wonder) whose job it was to infiltrate these dens of iniquity, enquire about ‘extra services’ and … well … we presume that, in the old cliche, ‘He made his excuses and left …’

Still, as they say in Soho, it’s been a business doing pleasure with you.

Has-bean – This month Financial Director looks at FDs who become chief execs. But imagine what would happen if marketing types became FDs …

Mercedes bends …

Sharp-eyed Mystic Megs amongst our readers might have sensed that something was up at Daimler-Benz, which we now know has been conducting secret merger discussions with Chrysler, the Detroit icon that made Lee Iacocca famous.

Only after we’d gone to press did we notice that our little red Merc got pranged in the photography studio, bending the hood ornament forwards.

But let it serve as a warning to the two management teams: the secret to a successful merger is to not put too many noses out of joint.

In our letters page, KPMG Management Consulting Emu expert Leslie Gunde puts forward a strong argument against the existence of anywhere called ‘Euroland’. The phrase has been around for a while to describe what Gunde says ought properly to be called the ‘eurozone’.

Be that as it may, the media have been going euro-crazy since the Brussels fudge-fest at the beginning of May, falling into line with our April issue ‘Welcome to Euroland’. Even Deutsche Bank used the phrase in a double-page advert in the FT. Sorry, Deutsche Bank, but we got our beach towels there first!

Things can only get better … and better … and better

Last month’s ‘On the Move’ page reported how one-time financial director Lord (David) Sainsbury wasn’t moving anywhere – except further up the Sunday Times Rich List with a personal and family wealth of £3bn. Oops! Turns out the supermarket chairman is moving after all, vacating the chairman’s seat to spend more time with Tony Blair’s family.

But it must have been somewhat distressing for him to discover that news of his departure from the family firm sparked a 5% rise in the share price. Silver lining: the City’s snub makes him about £100m better off. New Labour, new shopping trolleys.

The new act that’s hard to swallow

Concern about ‘sharp practices’ in the construction sector prompted the government to pass legislation a couple of years ago, part of which came into effect on 1 May. Ministers looked at how the pre-tax line at some companies in the industry would virtually disappear but for interest income, and concluded that they were milking their suppliers for all they were worth by withholding payments.

And so they passed the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. The statute is widely known in legal and construction circles as ‘Hugh Grant’ – presumably because it’s less of a mouthful.

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